Local soccer player to compete with U-16 US WYNT in international tournament

O’Neill, USA will go to Turkey for the UEFA Friendship Tournament


Seaforth sophomore Cali O’Neill is getting another opportunity to compete with the U.S. Women’s Youth National Team this year.

O’Neill was named to the 20-player U-16 U.S. WYNT roster that will compete in the UEFA Friendship Tournament in Riva, Turkey from April 7-19. She’s listed as one of the seven defenders and was the only North Carolina player to be selected.

The tournament will be the U-16 WYNT’s first international competition since holding domestic training camps from September to February.

The team, coached since 2022 by Brazil native and former professional women’s soccer player Patchy Toledo, will be one of eight squads in the tournament, and it will be in Group A alongside Turkey, Vietnam and Botswana. USA will play Turkey Thursday, Vietnam Saturday and Botswana Tuesday all at the Turkey Football Federation Riva Facility.

These matches will be the first ever games against Turkey and Botswana for a U.S. WYNT. USA will play in a placement match depending on its position in the group play standings on April 18. The top teams in each group will play for first place, the second-best will play for third, the third-best will play for fifth and the bottom teams will play for seventh.

Uganda, China, Wales and Paraguay make up Group B.

O’Neill is no stranger to the national stage, being one of 13 players to return from the team’s February domestic training camp in Chula Vista, California. She was also called up to the U-15 squad for its training camp at the Nike World Headquarters in Portland, Oregon in 2022.

A month before that, O’Neill participated alongside 59 other players from across the country in the U-15 WYNT Talent ID Camp also held in Chula Vista.

O’Neill’s continued involvement with the U.S. WYNT can lead to greater opportunities with U.S. Soccer in the future. All players in the U-16 WYNT pool are age eligible for this year’s FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup, which will take place in the Dominican Republic from Oct. 16 to Nov. 3.

After making the U-16 WYNT training camp roster in February, O’Neill told the Chatham News & Record that her ability to play in the U-17 Women’s World Cup, which happens every two years, depends on her performance and whether she’ll keep getting called back to the national team until the World Cup roster is announced.

Since the event’s inception in 2008, USA has never won the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup.

Outside of the national team, O’Neill does not play with Seaforth girls’ soccer, but she has played club soccer with North Carolina FC Youth for eight years, spending four of those with the program’s NC Courage Academy.

In the 2024 Jefferson Cup Girls Showcase Weekend that took place in Richmond, Virginia from March 15-17, Jerry Penkala, a longtime scout and owner of recruiting management service JTF Academy, named O’Neill as a standout player from NC Courage’s roster.